The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just Opened - November 21, 2014

A major release and some off-the-beaten-path releases, modern compositions for violin and orchestra, and for harpsichord, Russian Romantics for brass, and the pleasure of the guitar... all... Just Opened!

Anne Akiko Meyers 
London Symphony Orchestra
ISBN # 0 99923 77912 4 
Official Website of Anne Akiko Meyers
The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin provide the backdrop for the outstanding solo artistry of Anne Akiko Meyers on this CD that focuses on the work of "modern" American composers.  The delicious melody of the Barber Violin Concerto is enough to attract any listener, and the Lullabye by Corigliano was actually written for Anne's child, and is unusually melodic for his music.  The Bates work will be new to most listeners.  Bates was a student of Corigliano, and this is one of his most frequently performed works, with fascinating and fun syncopations.   Akiko Meyers is justifiably becoming a world-wide favorite, with several of her recent releases hitting #1 on the Billboard charts.

Johnna Jeong
ISBN # 6 42820 01582
Official Website of Johnna Jeong
This debut release from guitarist Jeong is a pleasure, and will appeal to a wide variety of listeners.  Jeong's electic musical taste is reflected in the variety of works that flow from traditional classical guitar into the borders of folk, and of jazz.  Her degrees are from Virginia Commonwealth University and East Carolina University.  She performs regularly in a variety of venues, live and as a studio musician, she teaches and composes.  The packaging of this CD is very pretty, a nice reflection of the pretty mix of music here that is both smart and entertaining.

Pictures at an Exhibition
Fine Arts Brass Ensemble
Nimbus 5645
ISBN # 7 10357 56452 9
Official Website of Fine Arts Brass Ensemble
Most of our listeners know that I love brass, and these transcriptions for brass make it easy to love.  The major work here is the well-known "Pictures at an Exhibition."  It has been transcribed for solo piano and many other groupings aside from its well-loved orchestral form, so it is perfectly in keeping... and works quite well to arrange it for brass - especially since the repeated promenade is so prominent.  All the composers here are Russian, which makes for a nice grouping, and high romantic-era melodic content.

Elaine Funaro, harpsichord
CRC 2651
ISBN # 0 44747 2651 24
Official Website of Elaine Funaro
My Delight of the Week!   Funaro is an established name in the international world of harpsichord.  She infuses her love of the history and tradition of the instrument with a passion for solidifying the future of the instrument by having new works created for it.  This is a very accessible CD of new works for harpsichord, most of them somewhat based in classical forms, and most of them -while new compositions by new composers - are very melodic and easy to listen to time and again.  A real joy for anyone who appreciates keyboard works, and the special soundworld of the harpsichord.

Thanks again to our SU practicum Stephanie Clark for her help pulling together the pictures and information for this blog post.
Kara Dahl Russell

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Build a Piano - The Lutheal

Not exactly where the piano is "going,"  since it made the side trip and decided quickly to come back to "normal." We have an aside to our after-the-news-at-noon series this month "How to Build a Piano," is one of the early "prepared" pianos:  the piano-lutheal.  

Here is a link with photos and sound clips describing this "extension" of a normal piano.   Violinist Daniel Hope compared it to a typewriter attached to the piano...   Developed in 1919, it was part of the craze for gypsy and "turkish" sounding music.  Ravel wrote his Tzigane (gypsy) pieces for it.

Click here to see short article with photos & sound clips of a piano-lutheal.

We hope you are enjoing our series on the development and growth of the piano!
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, November 7, 2014

Just Opened - November 7, 2014 - Give Thanks!

Before the Christmas rush, some new major international releases you may want under the tree, or just something to give thanks for, are joined with smaller releases that may be your special thing!

I just want to encourage our listeners again... BUY THE CD.  The portion of online download sales that gets back the artist or organization is smaller than for CD sales.  (You couldn't miss the articles this week about Taylor Swift pulling her music off one major music download source.)  
So, if you really want to support the artist(s), please buy the CD.

Joshua Bell
SONY Classical
ISBN # 8 8843 08779 2
Official Website of Joshua Bell
Bell is one of the most accalimed musicians of today and has the career and clout to enable him to pull together other big name performers to bring just about any project to fruition.  In the past 3 decades he has recorded more than 40 albums, including the great violin repertoire.  Now in his 3rd season as music director of the famed "Academy of St. Martin in the Fields," he turns his talent to seminal works of Bach.  Bell says "Bach is the composer who got me hooked on music in the first place."   This CD also includes a new arrangement of Bach's beloved Chaconne for violin and orchestra.  

Volume 9
ISBN # 0 90404 94272 3
Official Website of Poul Ruders 
Ruders name is synonymous with difficult new music for many listeners, so this CD of his piano music provides a welcome window to the simplicity and the melodic surprises within the modern framework.
Jackie Evancho
ISBN # 8 8843 08742 2
Official Website of Jackie Evancho
In advance of the holidays... the new release from the now 14 year old Jackie Evancho.  This is the release tied to upcoming specials and performances and marks the next phase of this young singer's progress.  It's hard to not feel connected to this child we've watched grow up, and this CD is sure to be a sentimental favorite as a holdiay gift.

Ceora Winds
ISBN # 8 88295 07613 5
Official Website of Ceora Winds 
My Delight of the Week!  Ceora winds plays mostly new works on this CD, so it is a joy to be able to say that almost all of it is melody driven.   Some works explore the possibilities of a peaceful bucolic sound,  and others offer the frivilous fun of Ibert or Poulenc, and then they toss in works of Piazzola and Pizzi to put on the icing of popularity.  Their musical selections are so good that it would be easy to overlook their beautiful sound production... so take a moment to sit back and appreciate the full complexity of their individual and group accomplishment on this CD.

SUNG JIN HONG (composer/conductor)
"Breaking Bad" and "Eye of the Storm"
One World Symphony
On sale Dec. 1st, but available online for pre-order:
"The CD will release on Dec. 1st and all net proceeds will benefit NYC's largest soup kitchen - Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen."   The ambitious and publicity-smart inception of the new works of Hong create a "hook" that is undeniable, and bound to create interest.  These works have been compared to Mahler; whether these challenging, largely anti-melodic, excessively dark works can create interest to continue the life of these works over time - is something that only time will tell.  What IS telling on this CD is the pairing and presentation of these new works with time-tested favorite orchestral works which beautifully show off the talent of the orchestra.  Works by  Ravel, Stravinsky and Britten bump up the melody quotient and give the audience something familiar, enjoiable, and demostrate the orchestra and conductor's real strength.  The fact that these musicians have come together in support of both new and established works, and such a great cause is reason enough to support this endeavor.

Thanks again to our SU practicum Stephanie Clark for her help in pulling together the pix, links, and info. on today's new releases.
Kara Dahl Russell

Monday, November 3, 2014

After the News at Noon series: "How to Build a Piano"

Today marks the first day of our "How to Build a Piano" series.  We'll be looking at the growth of keyboard instruments - the "portable ones" (as opposed to the organ) that led up to today's piano, and how the instrument developed alongside the music.  Special thanks to our SU practicum Stephanie Clark who has done a great deal of the research on this series.

This first week we are focusing on the various harpsichord type instruments.

Here are two pictures of the harpsichords.  These are later "double manual" harpsichords (two rows of keyboards) which greatly increased the range of the instrument.  Many harpsichords (like the virginal pictured below) can be separated from their base/legs, so they are considered portable.  In these two pictures you can see why the rows of strings were referred to as the "harp" of the instrument.

Here is a youtube clip that demonstrates a closeup of a harpsichord jack in action:

Next is a picture of a virginal. Note that there is a top cover and front cover.  The front cover falls down in front of the legs or table.  Because virginals were separate from their leg base, they were very portable, and could be set up on any available table surface.  Note that the range is quite small, just over 3 octaves.

For images of spinets and additional information on other (beautiful) harpsichords

We hope you enjoy this journey through time with perhaps the most favorite instrument of all time, the piano.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, October 24, 2014

Just Opened - October 24, 2014 - The Edge of New

The very traditional, from Beethoven to operetta, and the new edge of old, with new works for harpsichord and new works that incorporate traditional eastern instruments.  Today, new releases, just opened.

Jonas Kaufmann, tenor
SONY Classical 88843087712
ISBN # 8 8843 08771 2 2
Official Website of Jonas Kaufmann 
My Delight of the Week.   Better known for some of his operatic "heavy lifting"... the lengthy roles of Wagner, like Parsifal, dishy Kaufmann reinvigorates the overlooked genre of operetta.   These infectious and fun melodies, often dismissed as too light, Kaufmann reveals to be some of the more demanding works he has sung... partially because performing them correctly needs to seem effortless.  Unlike some opera roles where part of the "drama" is the tenor "working" for his high notes, the goal in operetta was silken smoothness and the seeming ability to toss these works off without trying (remember that Maurice Chevalier began in this world, and you immediately understand the attitude of casual elegance).  For several years I've been asking music producers "why don't we see more productions of operettas?  The music is delightful, the settings colorful, and they've been forgotten, so they'd be NEW to a new generation."  (I've been lobbying for a modern dress production of Desert Song - very appropriate, considering....)  Singers rejoice in the hope that Kaufmann's attention may bring these roles & productions back into vogue!

An Original Tribute to Ancient Egypt
Instrumental music by Pamela Sklar
MSR 1498
ISBN # 6 81585 14982 9
Official Website of Pamela Sklar 
These works by Sklar are the exciting edge of modern music, where folk (a la middle eastern and north african traditional music) meets the exotic and chamber works in inventive ways that are very compelling.  Especially appealing to the "world music" crowd, this is very accessible modern music that builds on the "orientalism" of Borodin and other Romantic era composers whose work was inspired by, and infused with eastern influence.

Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 88843058862
ISBN # 8 8843 05886 2 2
Official Website of Leif Ove Andsnes
This world renowned pianist continues his journey through the major works of Beethoven for piano and orchestra (and sometimes chorus, too).   Working with top flight orchestras in this series, Andsnes creates CDs that can easily become part of the essential core of your classical music library.

Elaine Funaro, harpsichordist
Gasparo GSCD 331
ISBN # 7 5510 10331 2 8
Official Website of Elaine Funaro
Elaine Funaro continues to explore the musical possibilities of that "old" instrument, the harpsichord in new works that take on the soundscape of new compositions, as well as other new works that lean heavily on the structure and sound of the past. Some of these keyboard works will be too modern and inaccessible for many listeners.  Funaro has a large body of recorded works, and they are worth exploring.  Funaro is currently the President of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America, and artistic director of Alienor, the (US based) international competition for new harpsichord music, and is intensely involved in the perpetuation of older and devleopment of new works for harpsichord.  (Her teachers included Ton Koopman and Gustav Leonhardt.)

Thanks to our SU Practicum, Stephanie Clark, for pulling together the pix and website info. to help you find out more about the CDs that pique your interest.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just Opened - October 17, 2014

The last weekday of our drive we present a variety of new releases, choral works based on poetry of African American writers, quirky works for winds and strings, a lyrical new group of Schubert transcriptions, and Lang Lang's new 2 CD set release of Mozart works with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Langlamet, Prohaska, Quandt, St. John
ANC 141
ISBN # 8 54853 00402 5
More about Marie-Pierre Langlemet
Official Website of Lara St. John
 My Delight of the Week!  Listeners are never surprised when I select a new harp release as my delight of the week... but this one truly is special, with something for everyone.  For whatever reason, very few harpists approach Schubert's works in transcription, and here the selections a made and played by one of the world's finest ... Marie-Pierre Langlemet.   She often works with violinist Lara St. John, and this is their new release.  It has tremendous variety, with a few solo impromptus, but mostly chamber works, including 4 songs, and - my favorite - Schubert's "Sonata Arpeggioni" played here as a harp and cello duo that is magical (Ludwig Quant joins Langlemet on that, and on a trio).

Three Choral Cycles on Poems by Langston Hughes
William Averitt
MSR 1509
ISBN # 6 81585 15092 4
Official Website of William Averitt
I suspect these choral works will have a long life due to their focus on the poetry of African American Langston Hughes. These modern compositions are rarely filled with memorable melody, but have the strong use of "choir as an orchestral sound" that is so much a part of today's choral music scene.  There are movements of each set that bring the big sound into the personal sphere.

Lang Lang, piano
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.
SONY Classical 88843082532
ISBN # 8 8843 08253 2 1
Official Website of Lang Lang
The major release of the works of Mozart - one of the most popular composers of all time, performed by one of the biggest names in concert halls today, Lang Lang, conducted by a world renowned conductor, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.   This is a combination made in advertising heaven and is bound to be on a lot of people's Christmas wish list... if they can wait that long to have it.  Also a great introduction to great works of music for those who are just building their classical library.

Beth Anderson, composer.
MSR 1434
ISBN # 6 81585 14342 1
Official Website of Beth Anderson
These new compositions are quirky and fun, and often very melodic - a great way to explore new music of a new composer.  The instrumental groupings add to the interest, with a variety of combinations of winds and strings.  New music is always for the adventuresome, and this particular CD has a lot of rewards for the listener.

Thank you to everyone who donated to support the continuing efforts of Delmarva Public Radio during our fundraising drive.   Also thanks again to our SU Practicum Stephanie Clark, for pulling together the websites and photos to help you find the CD you like.  Join us next week for more great music, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, October 3, 2014

Just Opened - October 3, 2014 - "Brought to You by the Letter B"

It was only after I put today's selections together that I realized they all have prominent Bs.  Beethoven, Boyer, and Bientus the composers, and for our Baroque selection today, Boer and Beijer play the lead roles on these works for viol da gamba.

Jean-Paul Beintus
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Diana Damrau, soprano
Kent Nagano, cond.
ISBN # 7 74204 91312 0
Official Website of Orchestre Symphonque de Montréal
My Delight of the Year!  It is pretty rare when I listen to a new CD and have to play it for almost everyone I know.  For many years at WSCL, even before I came here,  Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne" have been audience favorites.   For anyone who has liked that work, I can easily say you will love this.   Simple, heart-touching Japanese folks songs given lush and varied orchestral settings, sung by one of the great sopranos of our time and a marvelous children's choir in various combinations, and some solely  instrumental settings as well.  In much the same way as Canteloube used the orchestral settings to represent the landscape and aspects of nature, to create a musical picture-setting for those folk songs, Beintus has done the same things with these children's songs.  Like the music of raindrops on a window, or wind in the leaves.  Damrau sings mostly in the mezzo range on these works, giving them a rich quietness, which is only complimented by the sweet hollowness of the children's choir.  I must admit that this CD "hits me where I live" musically.  I have always liked eastern music, and as a harpist I have explored and performed asian works both in traditional forms and westernized settings.  Just as the classical music world has purists who hate to hear a tenor aria transposed and performed by a mezzo, I suppose there may be traditional eastern performers and artists who may feel that the orchestrations here are too western, the singing style too "full and supported" a singing style, and that it is not "true" to history.  That is fair criticism, but that is not the intention.  The intention here is to take these ancient tunes and give them a "new frame" and a new presentation that helps others appreciate them in new ways, and it is a complete success that I expect will have tremendous popularity once it is heard and known.

James Brawn, piano
MSR 1467
ISBN # 6 81585 14672 9
Official Website of James Brawn
James Brawn continues his offerings of the work of the incomparable Beethoven.  This CD includes an early sonata, his late "Tempest", and the charming and evokative "Les Adieux (The Goodbyes)".
't Uitnement Kabinet, original instrument group
NM Classics 92111
ISBN # 8 713309 92113
The Netherlands has a strong love of Baroque music, and for many years, has done an excellent job of researching and highlighting prominent composers of that time period whose work might be otherwise forgotten.  Early music group " 't Uitnement Kabinet" gives us glorious compositions composed to highlight the dark beauties of the viol da gamba, by Riehman (1680-1726), Hacquart (1640-1701), Schenck (1660-1720), and Snep (1656-1719).

SYMPHONY No. 1, and other works by Boyer
Peter Boyer
London Philharmonic Orchestra
NAXOS 559769
ISBN # 6 36943 97692 0
Official Website of Peter Boyer 
Contemporary composer Boyer conducts his own work on this CD. He has a particular gift for fanfares, a strength on short statements, and a way with the brass section, so his "Silver Fanfare" and "Celebration Overture" are particularly strong.  His "Three Olympians" is worth deeper listening, modern tone poems in the romantic vein, based on truly classical (greek) themes.  If you are finding many living composers have work that is difficult to like or attach to, you'll want to explore this and other works of Boyer.

Thanks again to Stephanie Clark, our S.U. practicum, for pulling together the pictures, websites, and CD info. to you help you find the music that speaks to you.
Kara Dahl Russell


The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Public Radio Delmarva, its staff, members, underwriters, Salisbury University, or the Salisbury University Foundation. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official.